Oh what a tangled Web 2.0 we weave
April 8, 2006 4:15 PM   Subscribe

Where did the current design trends in web design (featured prominently in Web 2.0) have their genesis?

The current state of web design is really starting to bore me - rounded corners, starbursts, pastels, etc.. The majority of sites use the same colors and the same design principles. Who, or whom, is responsible for all of this? Can this current school of design be traced back to someone, or some group of creatives? Inquiring minds want to know.
posted by bjork24 to Computers & Internet (25 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Well, Digg has had a meteoric rise in popularity over the last year and it typifies almost all of those practices... So I wouldn't be surprised if many people have copied that. (And yes I remember the "pre-Digg 2.0" days when Digg was just plain white with some blue here and there and no stupid rounded corners.)

Also, the stock templates for the handful of most popular blogs (wordpress, bloglines, blogger, etc) have got to be the most cookie-cutter pages out there since they get used unmodified so often.
posted by Rhomboid at 4:47 PM on April 8, 2006

I think most "web 2.0" design is just people recognizing that more isn't better, and aiming for simple, elegant and usable sites.

And the more people do this, the more other people realize that it's good.

It'd be easy to point at Nielsen or whoever, but I think it's just evolution in action.
posted by I Love Tacos at 4:59 PM on April 8, 2006

All the stuff from 37signals is what I blame.
posted by smackfu at 5:04 PM on April 8, 2006

The first web design I saw that encompassed the "Web2.0 look" was the firefox website. I remember there being a discussion about the Ruby on Rails website copying the Firefox design.

Anyway, that's the first time I remember seeing the rounded corners, bright colors, whitespace design that is now prominent.
posted by yellowbkpk at 5:13 PM on April 8, 2006

I too blame 37signals.
posted by youarenothere at 5:16 PM on April 8, 2006

Personally I trace it back to the high-profile redesign of Blogger by StopDesign and Adaptive Path.



for details.

I'd have to say though I disagree with your premise -- Web2.0 and pastel-coloured, rounded-corner, lots-of-whitespace design aren't the same thing. To me Web 2.0 implies AJAX.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 5:19 PM on April 8, 2006

The time is indeed ripe for the magnificent return of blink
and crumpled paper backgrounds..
posted by meehawl at 6:18 PM on April 8, 2006

I think a lot of it was driven by many developers moving to CSS based designs. Honestly Wired When they were the first major site I know of to go to a pure CSS 3 column layout.

Then movabletype and wordpress have their standard blog layouts which have driven some designs.
posted by bitdamaged at 6:25 PM on April 8, 2006

Maybe a round up of the suspects through the Wayback Machine will pin down the guilty parties.
posted by Pigpen at 6:27 PM on April 8, 2006

I second the Blogger redesign.

I doubt it was the originator of those design elements, but it seemed like you saw them being used a lot more after that.

Though many many people have taken their cues from the Firefox site as well, no question. I think Digg.com is one of them.

Also, please stop using the buzzword "Web 2.0" unless you're being hip and ironic. For instance, surround it with "scare quotes".

And, to end on a helpful note, I'll say that Design Meltdown exists for no other purpose than to track and catalog this sort of thing.
posted by Hildago at 7:13 PM on April 8, 2006

The time is indeed ripe for the magnificent return of blink


I've got a copy of Web 3.0a that I downloaded off of bittorrent, and you are so right about that. <blink> and <marquee> are back in a huge way baby.
posted by Hildago at 7:16 PM on April 8, 2006

I'm waiting for Web 3.1, which will still suck, but I hear Web 95 will be somewhat bearable.

posted by shortfuse at 7:41 PM on April 8, 2006

i personally blame OSX combined with web designers' opinions of themselves as scientist/designer hybrids. so standardization is a good thing, but only if you think it's pretty.

lots of css catalog sites popping up in recent months, apparently for the sole purpose of allowing less imaginitive web developers cut'n'paste from well-done pieces. it's great.
posted by patricking at 7:45 PM on April 8, 2006

I blame Blogger, Stopdesign and Zeldman.
posted by Count Ziggurat at 8:15 PM on April 8, 2006

I think there's a difference between the Blogger redesign/Stop Design/Zeldman school of designing - i.e. CSS, simplified and elegant code - and the web 2.0 design principles (if you can call them that...). Just sayin'. Also when CSS Zen Garden started growing in popularity I'm sure that got more people interested as well in the supposed '2.0' style. It's been said better by others, so I'll stop my ranting before it starts. (kudos to AmbroseChapel and bitdamaged for their comments).
posted by rmm at 8:45 PM on April 8, 2006

I think it's not just the web. Everything now has to look clean and have rounded corners (iPods...)
The way things look just change over time, including the web.
posted by easternblot at 9:07 PM on April 8, 2006

As far as I can remember, Google started the minimalist/white background design trend.
posted by kdern at 9:59 PM on April 8, 2006

Much of it can be traced to a fairly small group of blogging designers, but I think it's also a reaction against corporate web design.

Chances are an awful lot of the people who designed and built those 'Web 2.0' (ugh) sites would've been sick to death of what they'd been forced to produce for clients (clutter, corporate colours, stock photos of smiling business people, etc.), and so went in a very different direction (decluttered, softer colours, less cliched imagery) for their own work.
posted by malevolent at 12:37 AM on April 9, 2006

Everything now has to look clean and have rounded corners (iPods...)

Unlike all those things designed to go in your pockets which have sharp corners, you mean? Those Apple guys are geniuses.

No but seriously -- Steve Jobs is a big fan of the rounded rectangle. There's a whole page in "Insanely Great" about how they were building the library of basic shapes for the Mac OS's graphics, way back, and he gave their head designer a walk around the neighborhood and pointed out how many of them there were that you don't notice, like street signs.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 12:50 AM on April 9, 2006

I'm glad that there is someone else in my Zip Code* thinking about this.

*My Zip Code includes a State University--idiots, the lot of them.
posted by sourwookie at 1:04 AM on April 9, 2006

I'm not sure the Web 2.0 designs are all that bad. Ubiquitous, yes, but it's pretty nice to be able *read* a website without straining my eyes.
posted by ryanhealy at 8:54 AM on April 9, 2006

posted by planetkyoto at 9:04 AM on April 9, 2006

i'm surprised people aren't putting more emphasis on the constraints of designing with css. but then that doesn't explain round corners, so maybe everyone else is right.
posted by andrew cooke at 11:51 AM on April 9, 2006

Since there seems to be some thoughts on how Digg and the Mozilla identity had something to do with the "Web 2.0" design, then you could look directly at the Canadian web development team Silverorange who designed both of those sites and a little Pheedo for good measure.

And since Steven Garrity is creative director at silverorange you can ask him via his blog Acts of Volition what he thinks . . .
posted by jeremias at 1:37 PM on April 9, 2006

I'd love to write more about this later, but it's tax time, so I won't. I think 37signals is the root of much of it, especially the "big fonts" and the "forms with big fonts." They also, I believe, originated (or, at least, popularized) the fading pastel colors, although theirs were often on the site's background, moreso than on the gel buttons. I also think Flickr's design influenced a lot of people.
posted by Alt F4 at 2:54 PM on April 11, 2006

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